13 July 2007

From Laura Hulke


Yesterday was such a wonderful day that I feel compelled to let you all know about it. I'm sitting at an Internet shop in Guntur with almost all of the Mission Helper team before ten of us leave for Nellore. The other six will be staying in Guntur because they are working with the CLCI.

Yesterday morning, we went to see a statue of Buddha that had been blessed by the Dalai Lama only a year ago. We rode in two vehicles to about 30 min. east of Guntur. The statue is huge. It reminded me of the story of Nebuchadnezzar in the Old Testament when he had a statue of himself made for all of the people to bow down to. We toured the grounds and went inside the monument to see the stone sculptures and depictions of Buddha's life. It saddens me to think that there are all of these people in India (and the crowd seems to be endless) that still don't know the true God. I feel a little hopeless sometimes, but then I remember that God and His Word are powerful and can accomplish anything. My role is really just to spread the light wherever and whenever I can.

After having pizza for lunch, we got back in the vehicles to go to the CLCI complex in Nidubrolu. We had to stop, however, when we realized that we had left the gifts for the seminary students at the hotel. One vehicle went back to the hotel, so those of us in the other stepped outside to stretch our legs. And then things got really interesting: we drew a crowd. And I mean a crowd. Bikes and rickshaws were stopping to see us, people were coming out of stores and crowding on balconies - it was pretty unreal. Gui had mentioned to us before that we might be the only white people some of these people ever see. And considering that Guntur isn't exactly the tourism central of India, I can see how this would be the case. Lee started talking to a group of young men, and that crowd quickly grew. As Aprill said later, it wasn't exactly great for our humility, but it was definitely a noteworthy event.

We made it to the CLCI complex where we were greeted by Jyothi, Nireekshana, and V.S. Benjamin, lovingly dubbed by Gui as "The Godfather of the CLCI." We were seated and then greeted by V.S., who laid his hands on us and traced a cross on all of our foreheads. The complex was decorated with lots of colored lights. It was beautiful in the evening sky. They had also made individual banners for us and hung them on the stage platform. We briefly toured the complex, and then the 3-hour-long worship service began. We all received garlands, plaques, and Bible cases, and we were seated on the platform at the front, which gave us a great view of all the kids!

The service was fascinating. Many people spoke - mostly in Telegu - and it was so cool to hear the Bible read in a language I'd never heard before. There was a lot of music and some traditional Indian dancing, which was very interesting to watch. The thing that really struck me as Nireekshana was praying at the end of the service is that God really knows no bounds. Christianity can be and is proclaimed all over the world in many different languages by people very different from me. I guess I'd never really had that idea at the front of my mind before. It was very uplifting. Also, it was reassuring to realize that these people are working to save others in their own country, too, and there's a lot more of them even in the church body than there are in the CLC in the US!

The kids - oh, the kids stole my heart. During the service, they would wink and wave and smile at us and would giggle when we responded. We gave them stickers after the service and took lots of pictures. When we were leaving, they called me "sister" and gave me hugs and some kisses on the cheek. Some of them did this cute little thing where they would grab my cheek and then kiss their fingers, sort of like a reverse blowing a kiss to someone. It was absolutely adorable. I'm still a little sad that I don't get to stay here with them, but I know that there will be many more kids to meet in many more places.

What a beautiful day!

Sorry about the length of this email, but there was so much to share, and I felt like I really couldn't leave anything out. I'm so excited to begin teaching here in India! Keep me updated on what's happening with all of you, too, ok?